Question: Who is the disciple that Jesus loved? A nun told me that it was John but then a scripture professor told me something else about it being all of us.
If I could provide the definitive answer about the identity of the “beloved disciple” and publish it in a book, I could probably retire tomorrow on the royalties. Unfortunately, we don’t really know for sure who the beloved disciple is. The phrase appears in the Gospel of John five times. Since this phrase appears only in John’s Gospel and does not appear in the other Gospels, it was traditionally assumed that it referred to John the Apostle and evangelist. Some scholars believe that this was an autobiographical device employed by John to refer to himself throughout his Gospel, since he never names himself among The Twelve.
Other scholars argue that, since John himself was most likely dead by the time his Gospel was recorded in writing, that his followers chose to honor him with this title. Still, others argue that this was a device John used to, in a sense, open up a space in the Gospel so that we might insert ourselves into the story and know what it means to be a beloved disciple of Christ. In the end, we can look to the Gospel of John itself to offer us the most persuasive clue. In John 21:20-23, we find reference to the “disciple…whom Jesus loved.” Then, in verse 24, the author of John’s Gospel states, “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them.” Tradition credits John as the author of the fourth Gospel thus making a good argument for the “beloved disciple” to be identified as John.